A liver disease diagnosis can be frightening and confusing. For many individuals who have previously lived a fairly healthy life, or assumed that they were, it can be hard to understand what liver disease means and how it progresses. Understanding liver disease progression can help you understand what life with liver disease will be like. Here is an overview of how liver damage occurs:
Liver disease often begins with inflammation of the liver cells. How can you know if your liver is inflamed? Usually, liver inflammation is silent. It may be tender and can become enlarged, although more than likely you will not be able to feel it. If inflammation is left without treatment for a long time, it can cause damage to your liver. If treated promptly, the inflammation may go away and the liver disease may not progress. It is important to complete regular medical check-ups so there is a greater possibility of catching any liver-related health concerns as early as possible.
Liver inflammation can eventually lead to scarring. Scarring occurs when the liver attempts to repair itself and replace damaged cells. Since scar tissue does not work efficiently in the same way that healthy liver tissue does, its buildup can lead to decreased liver function over time. In the early stages of fibrosis, symptoms are uncommon. If you notice any symptoms of liver disease, such as yellowing of the skin or swelling of the abdomen or legs, contact your doctor.
The buildup of fibrosis may eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver, which means that the scarring has significantly impacted the health and function of your liver. In early cirrhosis, there is a period of compensation during which the liver has physical changes but can still perform important functions. Symptoms may not show up at first, but eventually, you may experience some of the following:
Mental changes, such as memory problems, shifts in mood, or confusion may also occur. These changes are often referred to as hepatic encephalopathy, which is the accumulation of toxins in your blood and brain that can lead to confusion if not identified and treated. Other major complications of cirrhosis include variceal bleeding and development of liver cancer. Generally, patients should be considered for liver transplantation if they develop these symptoms of decompensation (liver failure).
If you or somebody you know is diagnosed with liver disease, Arizona Liver Health can help you find the best outcome possible. Our liver specialists practice in Glendale, Tucson, and Chandler to reach more patients in need of specialized liver disease diagnosis and treatment. If you need to make an appointment or are a medical professional looking to refer your patient to our clinic, contact us online or by phone. We work closely with our patients’ existing medical care providers to keep everyone on the same page and provide the most comprehensive treatment possible.